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The Dallas Park and Recreation Department is always looking for ways to improve the sustainability of our parks. One of the areas the department is currently looking at is how we maintain the vegetation areas along creeks. For years the general practice was to mow all the way up to the edge of the creek bank. This was done historically due to the idea that shorter vegetation let the area drain and dry out faster. Over the years, we have learned that the practice of mowing up to the edge also causes many problems. Frequent mowing up to the edge discourages plants from growing deep roots, increased erosion and eventual collapsing of the banks. Mowing to the edge also causes us to lose a very valuable “green” function of riparian vegetation. That vegetation acts as a filter for dirt and grass clippings. Grass clippings getting in the water break down very quickly, adding nutrients to the water and decrease the overall quality of the water. Lastly, mowing up to the edge of the stream also removes valuable habitat for a variety of plants and wildlife. For example, in the last year, community scientists have observed and recorded 724 species in the riparian area along White Rock Creek from Harry S. Moss Park down to Interstate 30.
Where practical, Dallas Park and Recreation is looking at reducing mowing along creeks within the parks and trails. Even a 7-9 foot no mow strip can help significantly cut down the long-term erosion along the creek. That same strip will help filter any chemicals that may be in the water and catch finer cut vegetation like grass clippings. These no mow strips along the creeks will also help our objectives of helping foster habitat for pollinators, help provide food and cover for wildlife and help provide corridors for wildlife to move between larger patches of habitat.
The reduction in mowing along the creeks also reduces the department’s overall mowing demand. This helps with reducing mowing related emissions and saves money. How can you help the department and your local creek? Remember that vegetation along the creek acts as a valuable filter and will catch trash. If it is not caught in the smaller creeks, it will eventually make its way into the Trinity River or area lakes, such as White Rock and Bachman Lakes. You can help up by simply picking up trash when you see it and place it in one of the provided trash cans. If you want to help even more, be on the lookout for an announcement about local creek cleanup efforts in the parks this coming winter.